Updated: April 10th, 2022

I reckon you know a person (or it might even be you) who will happily splash $200 on running shoes but will recoil at the idea of spending for some quality running socks. After all, we’re all too fond of those with the holes in the toe, or lost their original color, that pair which have been used for years because hey, they’re ‘lucky’ right? Or simply because ‘they’ll do’. But a funny quote I found on the running shoe/sock pairing is like this:

“Running in great shoes and bad socks is like buying the freshest, highest-quality ingredients and then smothering them with ketchup. It’ll do the job, but the experience definitely won’t be as good as it could have been.”

Can you relate?

When I started out running I bought the color socks that matched my running shoes, I like them thin because I seemed to struggle with sweat. In fact, I struggled so much so, that I ran my first marathon WITHOUT any socks, for me it worked a treat… but…

Pulling running sock up against a car

BUT the older and wiser (and more experienced) I’ve become, I now invest in a quality, thicker sock that’s tailored to my needs more-so; such as the waterproof ones for my wetter, river-crossing-style adventure runs. In fact, since swatting up on running sock technology, I’ve found that running-specific socks are so handy. They’re designed to avoid blisters, pad your feet, offer some support and most importantly for me? They wick away sweat and moisture.

It was a whole new running revelation and it can be for you too (and honestly, they’re not that expensive).

Running sock features

Interested to know how running socks are designed differently from the regular ‘workout’ socks? Here’s an idea of the different features to look out for, so you can find socks to best fit your needs:

  • Seamless:
  • The toes are specifically seamless to prevent uncomfortable bunching or rubbing in-around or under your toes – a good brand will have seamless designs.

  • Toe socks:
  • If you struggle particularly with blisters in between your toes, these are a great option. Injinji brand feature just that to prevent the skin on skin irritation. – It’s particularly favoured amongst the longer distance runners – marathoners and ultra-runners because of the prolonged time spent training let alone race day! If you’re racing in the warmer weather, and/or are training long-distance, give them a try! (And you can pick them up for as little as $13).

    Toe running socks

  • Arch support:
  • Not quite as supportive as insoles, so not to be considered as a replacement if you require orthotic arc support BUT, many quality running socks will feature a compression band-like elastic feature which adds support, and improves the fit. – You will know if they have this kind of support because more often than not, the socks will indicate it’s a right foot/left foot sock (because who wants arc support on their little toe?)

  • Cushioning:
  • Running socks offer an array of different cushioning around the ball of your foot and the heels for more underfoot protection but also protection from blisters. Especially important if you plan to opt for the minimalistic running shoe for a more barefoot running experience – you might find you want socks with a little cushion or, socks that can counteract the lack of protection you’re getting from your barefoot running shoe. Heel-foot strikers may want to consider further cushioning support from their socks to help minimize any impact injuries. Me? I opt for a cushioned shoe and a cushioned sock – it’s like running on clouds.

    Running in running socks pink and offroad

  • Fleece-lined:
  • For the colder weather, some brands offer more heat-regulated technology that helps to wick away the sweat or moisture but also traps heat for a warmer, more comfortable winter running experience. The brand I love for this is more mile.

  • Tongue protector:
  • I suppose it’s not the first thing you consider when buying running shoes, that the tongue might rub and irritate your skin. I’ve found with some brands of running shoes, the tongues need a few runs to soften, others sit a little awkwardly for me, so I bought running socks that help eradicate any of that whatever shoe I ended up buying next – by having sock padding run a little higher up my ankle. Like an extra inch than that of an ankle-sock or invisible sock style. Something running sock brands appreciates and factor in their designs.

    Running socks that go higher up the ankle, walking upstairs

  • Mesh ventilation:
  • Yeah, your feet need to breathe too! Your running shoe and sock choice seriously do impact your running – because, breathe-ability matters.

  • Double layers:
  • Good quality socks, that you will want to take with you on your runs will have two layers. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… but the double-layered running socks allow the friction of movement to occur between the layers instead of your skin, ouchie!

    Bright running socks stretching

  • Compression:
  • Do you know the arc support running socks often feature? There is also a level of compression. You of course can buy compression specific socks for recovery too. But why not look for a pair that give your feet a little hug while you run it helps aid circulation too.

Runners wearing knee high compression socks of varying patterns and colours

Men’s vs Women’s running socks

The anatomy of male to female feet does differ, believe it or not. All too often ‘unisex’ means men’s, and the ‘ladies’ alternative seems to just be the same design in pink or purple. But companies such as injinji women’s running socks deliver what they promise.

A lighter weight sock with an increased heel-to-toe stretch, redesigned for a better snugger fit for a woman’s foot from the two-way stretch through the midfoot. Also, the toe pockets have been adjusted to fit the generally smaller toe of that a man’s.

Injinji toe running socks

If you consider unisex running socks with more of an ill-fit (unless they fit you – hey, everyone is different) your foot really could be missing out on some glorious well-fitting perks from cushioning, arc support and compression in all the wrong places.

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